Helen  Dunne

Helen Dunne

Wednesday, February 16th, 1938 - Monday, December 28th, 2020
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Helen Mae Dunne passed peacefully from this life at the T. Boone Pickens Center for Hospice and Palliative Care in Dallas, Texas on the morning of December 28, 2020. She was 82. She had Alzheimer's disease for several years prior to her passing, and was lovingly tended to by her daughter, Theresa, and her family in Coppell, Texas during her final years.

Helen Mae Norwood was born February 16, 1938 in Elmira Heights, New York to Edward Lewis Norwood and Mary Helen (Scouten) Norwood.

Helen showed her love of the Lord from a very early age. She converted to Catholicism when she was young, and was baptized at the age of nine. At fourteen, she chose to enter the convent and joined the Sisters of St. Joseph, and there, she became Sister Dominica.

Sister Dominica graduated from Nazareth Normal High School at the top of her class. While she was taking classes at Nazareth College, she began teaching elementary school in Rochester, New York with class sizes up to 48. She never used a ruler, but she liked to point out that she never had discipline problems, either. Throughout her life, in all of her years with children, she would point out to her own children, "Kids like discipline." It worked for her, and she was truly beloved of all those kids.

When she was a year away from making her final vows, Sister Dominica decided she wanted to have a family, so she left the convent. Helen continued to teach in parochial schools in Corning and Elmira, New York, and in Elmira, she met a man named Jack Dunne in the church choir at St. Mary’s Church who had a beautiful bass voice. The two fell in love and decided to get married on February 4, 1961.

The forecast that day predicted 2-4 inches of snow, but after 25 inches of snow fell, they needed to make special arrangements. A substitute priest was called to replace the one who couldn’t come, snow needed to be shoveled to be able to make it to the church, but in the end, they were able to get married. They had four children - John, Eileen, Theresa and Michelle - and eight grandchildren, and were very happy together on this earth for 56 years.

Helen and Jack were very supportive parents. They could always be found at their children's activities. One time they went to Buffalo to support one daughter who was putting on a concert with her students, then drove through the night on the New York State Thruway to be in Albany in the morning to support another daughter playing in a college softball tournament.

When Helen learned one of her daughters had a mental illness, straightaway she started volunteering with Compeer, which "uses the power of friendship to help adults and children with mental health illnesses…live happier, more productive lives." Helen loved her Compeer friend, Gloria, dearly and was partnered with her for over two decades.

When Helen's youngest was two, she wanted her to have playmates, so she started a daycare in her home. Several of the 300+ children Helen took care of over the next 27 years have become close family friends. Only a brain aneurysm was able to make Helen retire from this job. Thankfully, Dr. Mauri discovered the aneurysm and Dr. Kung did a masterful surgery which saved her life.

Helen was already involved in the Crystal Chords Barbershop Chorus by this time; a charter member. The love and sisterhood of the chorus really helped her get through that difficult experience, and she was involved with them for many more years. In fact, she became an emeritus member as well.

Helen and Jack were very involved in music their whole lives. In addition to singing barbershop music, they sang in the St. Mary's Parish Choir for several decades, they were proud members of the Schola choir, and Helen played in the parish handbell choir. At one time in the late 1970s, all the children were involved in Drum and Bugle Corps, and the Dunnes were very active "drum corps parents". With their daughters, Helen and Jack participated in the Southside Festival Players, a group that performed musicals during the summer at Southside High School.

Helen was also involved in church and civic organizations. She was on the St. Mary's Church Council, she was a eucharistic minister and a reader. She took up donations for the March of Dimes, she delivered Christmas presents for the Arctic League, and she also ushered for many years at the Clemens Center Performing Arts Theater. She volunteered at both St. Joseph's and Arnot Ogden Hospitals.

Helen was known as a very good seamstress; she made the wedding dresses for a daughter and a niece. She also enjoyed submitting things she had sewn, taken photographs of, and ceramics she had painted to the Chemung County Fair and won many blue ribbons for her entries.

Like many people, Helen struggled with her weight for years. She went to Weight Watchers for a long time, and she was an instructor for part of that period. Later in life she participated in T.O.P.S. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), remaining with that program, and was able to reach and maintain her goal weight.

After "retiring", Helen returned to work in the Elmira City School District. For the first couple of years, she enjoyed substituting all over the district. Her last 13 years were spent as an aide at Hendy Avenue Elementary School. She loved these years as much as she did her first years teaching.

Finally, Helen was known for her love of word games. She played Scrabble with anyone she could, but since she was very good, not everyone would play with her. When Words With Friends came about, she always was playing the maximum number of games, and her friendships increased all over the world.

Helen was predeceased by her husband, John "Jack" Mitchell Dunne, and her parents, Edward Lewis and Mary Helen (Scouten) Norwood. She was also predeceased by the following siblings: brothers, Edward Lewis, Jr. and James Norwood; step-brothers, Charles Jump and James Kimble; sisters: Margaret Savino, Mary Lou D'Archangelo, Winona Smiroldo, Kathleen Goodwin and Sarah Drinkard; half-sisters: Laura Hill, Wanda Blackwell and Carol Ann Norwood; and step-sister, Mary Helen Kimble Hitsman. Helen is survived by her children: John (Fatimah) Dunne of Singapore, Eileen (Mark) Farnsworth of Ashburn, Virginia, Theresa (Craig) Robinson of Dallas, Texas, and Michelle Dunne of Corning, New York; and her grandchildren: A'ishah Dunne; Nicole, Emily, Cameron and Natalie Farnsworth; and Seth, Claire and Patrick Robinson; half-brother John David Norwood; step-brothers Thomas and George Kimble; many nieces and nephews, and dear, dear friends, especially the kids.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to The Alzheimer's Foundation, 435 East Henrietta Road, Rochester, New York 14620.

Helen will be laid to rest side by side with her husband, Jack, in the columbarium at Woodlawn National Cemetery in Elmira, New York. Their spirits are reunited in heaven.

Helen's family entrusted her care to Brown's Memorial Funeral Home in Irving, Texas and McInerny Funeral Home in Elmira, New York. Due to the global pandemic, a funeral service at St. Mary’s Church in Elmira, New York will be held at a later date.
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Dian Fitzwater

Posted at 08:16am
Helen was a very caring person. We worked together at Hendy for 3 years and she was my classroom aide. She had a wonderful love for the children and was a positive influence. I am so sorry for your loss but heaven gained another beautiful soul.

Kathy Perera

Posted at 06:00pm
Aunt Helen's Life exemplified her walk with Christ. Loving, compassionate and supportive are words that truly describe her life. I could not have pursued my life's passion of nursing, if not for her loving care for my children when I worked. I never worried about my children when they were with her and therefore could focus on the patients that God entrusted to me. My cousins thank you for sharing this remarkable woman with her extended family. We love you and are praying for you during this difficult season. Love, Kathy

Rosemary Clist

Posted at 04:47pm
Honey was always my favorite Auntie. She spent a lot of time with me when she worked as a teacher at Corning, NY. We had so many fun times together. After she was married to her love, Jack we all spent a lot of time together. I was honored when I was chosen to be one of the caregivers for all their children! As years went by Honey was always a close friend and confidant. We loved singing together and taking walks. I know she is happy to join the rest of her heavenly family. All my love to my cousins.

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